Soldiers from the Army's 1st Infantry Division recently got the chance to attack another unit with the service's first electronic warfare (EW) prototype equipment during a force-on-force exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
The 1st ID's 1st Brigade Combat Team at Fort Riley, Kansas, is the first stateside unit to receive the same EW prototypes that went to forward-based units in Europe in February.
After receiving the assortment of electronic sensing and jamming equipment in March, the unit's electronic warfare officers put it into action as part of the opposing force at NTC, "locating the 'blue' or friendly forces on the battlefield, passing that information to the OPFOR commander and even applying some jamming effects against the friendly forces," according to a recent Army press release.
"This was our initial test of the equipment away from home station in a realistic operational environment," Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Robinson, electronic warfare non-commissioned officer in charge with the 1st BCT, said in the release. "When our brigade goes to the NTC later this year, we'll be able to integrate the equipment within our organic brigade, using the equipment in the same environment, but this time against the OPFOR."
The Army Rapid Capabilities Office and Project Manager EW & Cyber developed and delivered the prototypes in response to an operational needs statement from U.S. Army Europe, according to the release.
The EW gear was first fielded to units in Europe -- such as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment; 173rd Airborne Brigade; and 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division -- for use in operational exercises this spring, including Sabre Strike and the Joint Warfighting Assessment.
The prototypes will serve as an interim solution until the Army's EW programs of record can be fielded, according to the release.
"Recognizing this is a prototype system, it is still a step in the right direction," Warrant Officer 1 Christopher Mizer, an electronic warfare technician with the 1st BCT at Riley, said in the release.
"We haven't had a system within the electronic warfare community that looks at the electromagnetic spectrum and forces soldiers to think through what they are seeing, how that affects their commander's mission, and how they can affect the spectrum to enable the commander," he added.
The EW systems are helping the soldiers at Riley and in Europe learn how to fight with this type of technology on the battlefield, the release states.
"If we did nothing electronic warfare-wise until we actually field a program of record EW system, we would be significantly farther behind," Mizer said in the release. "We wouldn't know how to integrate them, operate them, maintain them or fight those systems when we get them.
"This is really informing that process. It's forcing our EW soldiers to look at the intellectual problem of determining how you fight an EW system. That's something the Army hasn't really done in almost three decades," he added.
The Army plans to continue this phased fielding approach and collect soldier feedback to aid development of the program of record EW equipment, the release states.
While at NTC, soldiers from 1st BCT were able to work directly with equipment developers on improvements to the systems, such as making them more "user-friendly," Robinson said in the release.
"We were able to work with the engineers and identify items that needed to be fixed," he said. "We expect some improvements shortly before we take the equipment back to our brigade's rotation at the NTC later this year."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.